Lancaster sets sights on World Cup glory
March 29, 2012
Stuart Lancaster was confirmed as England new head coach on Thursday © PA Photos
New England coach Stuart Lancaster wasted little time in setting his sights on Rugby World Cup glory following his appointment to the Twickenham hotseat.
Lancaster's successful spell as interim head coach saw England claim second place in this year's Six Nations but having been handed control of the team on a permanent four-year deal, he has quickly re-focused on the sport's biggest prize that will be contested on home soil in 2015.
"Absolutely, England can win the World Cup," said the 42-year-old Cumbrian, who still coaches the Under-11 team at West Park Leeds RFC, before spelling out his three-step plan to deliver on that challenge and win the Webb Ellis Trophy.
"I was sitting last night at West Park Leeds having finished coaching the under-11s and we were talking about the tour - not the South Africa tour, the Scarborough tour. I thought 'What would I want to see if I was a mini-team rugby coach or a spectator?' There are three things I'd like to bring to the (England) team.
"The first is pride in wearing the shirt and the connection with people. The advantage of playing a home World Cup is the power of the nation behind you. I want everyone to feel part of this team. The second is the vision for the future, and that is to win the World Cup in 2015. The third is for the players to play without fear and seize their opportunities when they come to play for England.
"The challenge now is to take this squad, and the players we will see emerge, forward to 2015. It is one that I can't wait to get stuck into. We have a massive task ahead of us in South Africa this summer and we have 37 games before that first World Cup match so every second counts in developing players who can win that tournament, which has to be the ultimate aim."
The RFU will now turn their attention to delivering Lancaster the coaching team he wants, which could well mean striking a deal to recruit Andy Farrell from Saracens on a permanent basis. Farrell was seconded to England's three-man interim management team for the Six Nations and Lancaster said at his interview that he wanted to keep the coaching group together.
Graham Rowntree is already on the RFU payroll, but Farrell currently has a two-year contract with Saracens. No approach has yet been made. Lancaster indicated he will not push for the recruitment of a team manager to take charge of discipline - a new position mooted in a review into England's failed World Cup campaign - because he is effectively already doing that job.
Danny Care and Delon Armitage were both axed from England's senior squads in the last two months after finding themselves in trouble with the police. But after England's three-Test summer tour to South Africa, Lancaster will consider whether he needs to add another coach to the mix to ensure he is not "stretched too thinly".
It has been a remarkable rise from relative obscurity for Lancaster, a former teacher who has retained strong grassroots links during his rise to the top. Lancaster spent two years as Leeds director of rugby before joining the RFU, where he held the dual role of England Saxons coach and head of elite player development. All the while, Lancaster has coached mini rugby at his local club and on Saturday he will join the Under-11 team at the York Festival.
"To be head coach of the national team at a time when we have the World Cup in our country is a huge honour, privilege and responsibility," Lancaster said. "It is a very proud day. I have coached at every level in the game. I understand the passion that exists for England at grassroots level because I have come from that environment."
Lancaster initially took the England reins on a temporary basis after Martin Johnson stood down in the wake of the World Cup campaign. England crashed out in the quarter-finals and the conduct of some players in New Zealand left the team's reputation in tatters. "We were on the back foot," Lancaster said with considerable understatement.
Lancaster rebuilt the team on the pitch, capping eight new players in a Six Nations campaign that ended with rousing victories over World Cup finalists France and Ireland. Off the pitch, Lancaster's efforts to cleanse England's image by engaging with sponsors, fans and media won him immediate admirers within Twickenham's executive team.
Although Lancaster did not have the sustained top-level coaching experience of Mallett or Jake White, who was also briefly in contention, Ritchie confirmed he "ticked all the boxes". "This is one of the biggest jobs in world rugby. Unquestionably we believe he is the best person for the job," Ritchie said. "I don't see this as a gamble. Stuart has been given this job on merit ahead of some very strong competition.
"We have appointed somebody to put us in the best place to be competitive and win the World Cup, which is so important for us. I think and believe that we should be very, very competitive."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.